Libraries take action in face of budget cuts

Local resident Bernard Janzen, pictured at the Davidson library branch on Wednesday, signs a petition in support of maintaining provincial funding for Saskatchewan's regional libraries.

Local resident Bernard Janzen, pictured at the Davidson library branch on Wednesday, signs a petition in support of maintaining provincial funding for Saskatchewan’s regional libraries.

By Joel van der Veen

DAVIDSON — With close to 10,000 items in its collection, there’s plenty to keep a bookworm busy in the Davidson library.

But the local collection is no match for the combined holdings of all the province’s libraries — numbering more than four million books, DVDs, CDs and other materials.

Budget cuts to regional libraries will effectively cut off access to any material outside of a user’s local branch — a devastating loss, in the eyes of some.

“In a small-town branch here, what you have available is limited,” said Bernard Janzen, a patron of the Davidson library who lives on a farm west of town.

“No (rural) branch can really stock all of the books that the people there would be interested in reading,” he continued. “It’s a nice place to come and read (but) the purpose of it is gone.”

Library staff and users were reeling last week from the news of massive funding cuts in this year’s provincial budget.

Funding for Saskatchewan’s seven regional libraries will drop from $6 million to $2.5 million, a cut of 58 per cent.

Jan Smith, director of Palliser Regional Library, said the region’s staff were “gob-smacked” by the announcement of the funding cut, which took effect April 1.

Palliser’s 20 branches include the libraries in Davidson, Craik, Elbow, Loreburn, Holdfast, Imperial and Bethune. The region is headquartered in Moose Jaw and extends south to the U.S. border.

Six employees at the Moose Jaw office received layoff notices last week, representing 75 per cent of the staff in that office. The layoffs take effect at the end of May.

Smith said local branches will likely see some reduction in operating hours, with the municipalities being asked to cover a greater share of staff salaries.

In an update posted online, Palliser staff said the cuts would have a substantial impact on the services available at their branches.

There will be no more regional funding for new books, DVDs or magazines.

Most electronic resources — including Hoopla, a digital service that provides access to movies, TV shows and more via computers and mobile devices — will be eliminated for rural branches effective April 1.

Staff also said the cuts would affect the Single Integrated Library System (SILS), which allows users to borrow items from any library in the province.

Without funding for the couriers who transfer items from one library to another, the SILS program would have to wind down, Smith said.

As of April 1, patrons will only be able to request items held in Palliser’s libraries, and by the end of May they will be limited to the items held in their local branch.

Cutbacks at the main office would also affect the services provided to local branch staff, including everything from payroll to technical support.

In the Davidson branch, patrons were being encouraged to add their signature to a petition, calling for a province-wide vote on maintaining library funding “at least at 2016 levels, indexed for inflation.”

The petition was organized by Regina lawyer Merrilee Rasmussen, in accordance with provincial law that states a petition signed by 15 per cent of the Saskatchewan electorate will result in a plebiscite on the question at hand.

Organizers said about 125,000 individual signatures are needed. Only people eligible to vote in Saskatchewan can sign the petition, which is being circulated around the province.

For the full story, please see the April 3 edition of The Davidson Leader or call 306-567-2047 to subscribe today.

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